The Workers’ Party now has 10 seats in Parliament – a scenario that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once said he needed to be wary of.
Back in 2006, PM Lee spoke about how the opposition’s job was “to make life miserable” for him and if there were 10 or more of them in Parliament, he would have to spend time “thinking what is the right way to fix them.”
With 10 elected opposition members (plus 2 Non-constituency Members of Parliament) in the new Parliament, what PM Lee said has new found meaning and significance:
“What is the opposition’s job? It’s not to help the PAP do a better job! Their job is to make life miserable for me so that I screw up and they can come in and sit where I am here and take charge.
“Right now we have Low Thia Khiang, we have Chiam, we have Steve Chia. So can deal with them, it’s ok. But supposing you had a Parliament with 10, 15, 20 opposition members out of 80.
“Then, instead of spending my time thinking of what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time – I have to spend all my time – thinking what is the right way to fix them, what is the right way to buy my own supporters over, how can I solve this week’s problem and forget about next year’s challenges?”
In more recent times, PM Lee has reiterated his view that the opposition should not be given the opportunity to grow.
He pointed out in 2018 that it was neither wise nor workable for the ruling party to “purposely let the opposition grow bigger when most of the population supports the PAP.”
Nevertheless, now that the WP has secured 10 seats in Parliament, PM Lee has announced the formal appointment of Pritam Singh as Leader of the Opposition.
How significant the move is remains to be seen. It could provide the WP a platform to show its calibre and prove its mettle, entrenching itself as a credible alternative to the PAP.
But will the PAP magnanimously provide opportunities for the WP to shine?
Or does the WP have to tread carefully and watch its back?